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PSU hosts Vietnamese Ambassador to talk Oregon-Vietnam connections
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: June 18, 2014

Portland State’s Hatfield School of Government hosted this week Vietnam’s Ambassador Nguyen Quoc Cuong. The school convened a two-hour briefing with Cuong’s delegation and members of the Vietnam-Oregon Initiative (VOI). 

The conversation ranged from opportunities to collaborate on trade, climate change adaptation, green design, emergency response and government relations. 

“Your visit comes with just the right timing because it reinforces what we see as the value and benefit of these relationships and of this group,” said Phil Kiesling, director of the Center for Public Service in the Hatfield School of Government and chair of
VOI. 

The PSU-led VOI is set up to facilitate relationships between Oregon-based companies and organizations with an interest in Vietnam and entities in Vietnam with an interest in Oregon. The group is made up of representatives from the government, academic, business and military sectors. In the Vietnamese language VOI means, “go together.” 

At the table with the delegation from the Vietnam Embassy were representatives from Nike and Columbia Sportswear, both of which have large manufacturing facilities in Vietnam; members of the Oregon National Guard, which has an active State Partnership Program with Vietnam; Metro Council President Tom Hughes, representing the Portland-area regional government; and former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, who is a Distinguished Fellow of Politics and Policy at the Hatfield School. Others represented architecture firms doing business in Vietnam and other leaders with ties or interests in Vietnam. 

“The emphasis in D.C. on Asia creates an opportunity for the Vietnam-Oregon Initiative and for Oregon and Portland State,” Kulongoski said as the briefing got underway. 

Marcus Ingle, PSU public administration professor, has spent the last decade building strong links between Portland State and Vietnam, facilitating training for Vietnamese politicians in Portland and research in Vietnam focused on sustainable development. Kiesling called Ingle the “spark plug” responsible for putting together the VOI. Ingle works closely with Huan Dang, the Center for Public Service’s Vietnam Coordinator. The Institute of Sustainable Solutions has supported Portland State University’s work in Vietnam. 

“The world has gotten really complicated,” Ingle said. “How can we be innovative? How can we disseminate a culture of innovation in Vietnam and in Oregon? It’s a two-way street. We learn from each other.” 

After hearing from the group, Cuong and his delegation emphasized a need to work with Federal partners to more effectively elevate and institutionalize the VOI goals and objectives. VOI members expressed an interest in working with Rep. Earl Blumenauer to further strengthen Federal ties. 

With already deep ties between Oregon companies and organizations in Vietnam, Ambassador Cuong said he saw many more connections to be made in the future. 

“I see quite significant opportunities in Oregon for Vietnam and in Vietnam for Oregon in the years to come,” Cuong said. 

“We’ve been to 30 states and we haven’t seen this before,” he added. “This is the place where we find ideas.”  

While visiting Oregon Ambassador Cuong also met with Gov. John Kitzhaber and senior leaders in the Oregon National Guard.